Cappella del Pontificio Collegio Spagnolo di San Giuseppe is a later 20th century college chapel at Via di Torre Rossa 2 in the Aurelio suburban district.
The college is dedicated to St Joseph.
This is an impressive building, worth visiting.
The "Pontifical Spanish College of St Joseph" (in Italian, Pontificio Collegio Spagnolo di San Giuseppe; in Spanish, Pontificio Colegio Español de San José) is a seminary for training priests for dioceses in Spain. The Spanish hierarchy has responsibility for it.
The college was founded at Rome by Blessed Manuel Domingo y Sol, a diocesan priest of Tortosa, in 1892. The Spanish church had suffered greatly from anti-clerical government policies including the seizure of assets, and was struggling to train its seminarians at the time
The first fifteen students were housed in premises attached to the Spanish national church of Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli. However, two years later in 1854 the college moved to the Palazzo Altemps (see Sant'Aniceto nel Palazzo Altemps) and remained there for over a century. The property had been in the ownership of the Holy See, so acquiring it was fairly straightforward.
In 1956, an increase in the number of seminarians prompted a project to build a completely new college complex in a suburban location. Also, as it transpired later, the College had not been spending enough money to keep the Palazzo in proper repair. The foundation stone for the new premises was laid in that year, and work was completed in 1965. The initial intention was to continue to use the Palazzo for teaching and the new complex as a place of residence, which meant that the seminarians would be expected to commute daily.
However, that did not last long because the number of priestly vocations in Spain began to decline in the late Sixties. It was decided to abandon the Palazzo, concentrate all college activities at the new complex and to return the Palazzo to the Holy See. The latter did not want it, and passed it on to the Italian government in 1982. So, it was the Italian taxpayer who had to pay for the arrears of maintenance left by the College when the Palazzo was restored as a museum.
The new complex is an important modernist work by the Spanish architect José María de la Vega Samper.
Since its foundation, the college has been administered by the Fraternity of the Diocesan Worker Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, founded by Bl Manuel for the purpose and (by extension) for working in seminaries in general.
This complex is one of the larger seminaries at Rome. It consists of several multi-storey blocks arranged around three main courtyards, one behind the other on an axis perpendicular to the street. Like most other Roman suburban seminaries, it hides behind a boundary wall but you can see the main entrance from the vehicle gate. This is in a three-storey front block, and the flat floating canopy over the portal is topped by a huge fenestration reaching up and into a gabled false pediment over the roofline. This architectural feature amounts to the civic totem of the college, and is what you tend to see in publication illustrations.
The chapel has its own architectural identity. It has a rectangular plan, and is attached along its left hand side to the ranges surrounding the second main courtyard. Its front and back are free, and look onto a third and fourth courtyard. These two subsidiary courtyards are open to the right, where they look out into a park, the remnants of the grounds of the Villa Carpegna. The right hand chapel wall also faces this park.
The chapel has no civic presence, and is invisible from the street, but you can view the exterior from the park just mentioned.
There is also a small house chapel as well as the main chapel, and the tendency is for the college to refer to "church" and "chapel".
Chapel fabric Edit
The chapel is a church-sized edifice. Its fabric is all in reinforced concrete, except for the gable-pitched and tiled nave roof.
There are three zones. First comes a very deep entrance bay, slightly narrower than the main nave and having its roof at a slightly shallower pitch angle than that of the main nave beyond. Then comes the nave, of eight shallow bays. Finally there is a deep sanctuary, of five shallow bays and with a flat roof at the same height as the ridge-line of the main roof. The sanctuary roof has a large rectangular skylight on the major axis.
The abutting structures on the left hand side are lower than the chapel, except for a multi-storey block abutting the entrance bay which is higher.
The right hand side wall reveals the structure. The entrance bay wall is entirely blank. The main nave wall has eight very tall and proportionally narrow recesses with the shape of an inverted isosceles triangle. Each of these recesses begins at a point on the wall near the ground, then broadens and deepens until it meets the roofline where it touches the roofline just below the eaves. The eaves are straight, but the cornice created by the tops of these recesses is zig-zag.
Each recess has a window strip running down its far corner.
The sanctuary wall has ten large vertical rectangular windows, five above five. These are separated by a deep horizontal beam and narrower piers, which are flush with the windows -there are not frames.
The façade is dominated by an enormous pentagonal window, with a huge concrete frame which occupies the full width of the façade. This bright white frame doubles up as a canopy for the entrance below, and fits into the gable above. The fenestration is in large clear tessellated rectangular panes, protecting the stained glass inside and keeping the pigeons out.
Below, two massive and broad rectangular piers flank the void containing the entrance, and meld with the wall containing the single double-doored portal. These piers occupy the outer corners of the façade. The creamy white wall surfaces of piers and portal back wall are scored with six horizontal lines. Is this stone revetting?
The interior is all in white, except for the floor which is in creamy-coloured marble tiles and has a wide stripe running down the major axis which is laid in varnished longitudinal dark brown wooden planks. This was not the original floor colouring, which was in a miserably dark grey.
The side walls have bastions in the shape of an inverted triangle, corresponding to the recesses visible outside. Each of these bastions consists of two triangular wall surfaces, starting at a point near the floor and ending as part of a zig-zag cornice line at the roof. A window strip down each near one of these surfaces throws light onto the main altar. These strips also have a narrow inverted triangular shape, and contain semi-abstract stained glass evoking a sunrise.
The roof is supported by long transverse concrete slab-beams, the same whitish colour as the walls and sloping down from front to back. The upslopes between them seem to be panelled in wood.
Looking from the back of the chapel, the effect is of a set of nested trapezoids which is an interesting and powerful architectural statement. The wooden roof panelling is hidden by the back-sloping beams, and the side stained glass windows by the bastions. Hence, the view from the front of the chapel is completely different from that from the sanctuary.
The huge counterfaçade window has stained glass in a semi-abstract design in white, red and blue which evokes a fire surrounded by sky. The mullions are in fiberglass, and are themselves abstractly shaped (the same applies to the sanctuary windows). A gallery occupies the whole width of the entrance bay below this, with a solid frontal.
The large sanctuary is raised on four steps. There are ten large rectangular stained glass windows, five above five, on the right hand side only. These have stained glass of pieces of varying shapes and in an abstract pattern, held by wide fiberglass mullions which meld to form a single surface for each window. The dominant colours are red and blue.
The large skylight over the altar also has stained glass.
The altar is free-standing, and is a limestone block with the vertical surfaces roughly pecked. It seems to stand on a smaller plinth of red marble (?).
The central part of the far wall is occupied by a huge recess reaching from floor to ceiling, and this is occupied by long vertical wooden strips or battens which are not abutted but which have gaps between them. The central vertical strip of the recess is in gilded mosaic containing randomly arranged coloured tesserae, and at the bottom of this is the tabernacle which is a roughly cut white shelly limestone boulder. It has an irregularly pentagonal door in gilded metal.
Over the altar hangs a huge Greek cross made of seventeen large square orange-red glass panes, held in a metal frame. It backs a traditional crucifix corpus in wood, with an etiolated design which looks old (is this last item a college heirloom?).
A pair of sacristy doors are in the far wall, in the same style as the woodwork in the central recess. Over them are a pair of circular paintings. To the left is St Joseph with the Christ-child, and to the right Bl Manuel the college founder.
A polychrome wooden statue of the Madonna and Child stands on a tall plinth to the left of the tabernacle, looking very Spanish and obviously brought here from the old college.